The intransigent Word table
September 19, 2013 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I really ought to know how to fix this, but I'm stumped. I copied a table with text from an html page (yes, probably my first mistake) into a Word document.

I thought I had gotten rid of any hinky formatting. But I've discovered that rows are disappearing and reappearing depending on where the cursor is. What's more, if I turn on "show formatting" Word shows the document as having 79 pages. But when I do print preview, it suddenly only has 73 pages. So there must be a bunch of hidden text in the table. How do I quit playing peek-a-boo with this stupid table??
posted by orrnyereg to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
This is sort of random but I have had success pasting tables into one or another Google application (Gmail, Google Docs/Drive) and then copying it out of there to get some of the formatting sorted. Maybe try pasting it into a Google Drive/Docs spreadsheet to get some more options for edit/export.
posted by exogenous at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2013

It sounds like this is a really big table, but by any chance can you just nuke it from orbit and actually build a table in Word?

Another idea might be to see if you can achieve the results you want with Excel. I find tables in Word to be much more subject to "intransigence", as you put it, than just working in Excel when the document in question is specifically a table/spreadsheet. Excel's formatting features are usually robust enough to make it look like what you want.

Keeping this disaster in Word, with all these hidden surprises, is going to be awful to work with down the line, especially if other people will ever be working with the file. Just do it right in the first place. I have learned this from experience.
posted by Sara C. at 6:07 PM on September 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I recommend this:

1. delete the table entirely
2. recopy the table from the web page
3. "paste special" into Word, and paste it as unformatted text. All the cells should be separated by tabs
4. Select what you just pasted and convert text to table.

This should eliminate the hinkiness.

Note that if there are any manual line breaks within cells as the table appears on the web, everything will get thrown off and you'll be sad.
posted by adamrice at 6:16 PM on September 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if this will help, but an Excel command, Data > From Web, brings the table into a spreadsheet. Working with a copied spreadsheet may be easier than with a copied HTML table.
posted by davcoo at 6:34 PM on September 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Assuming it's a table with no merged cells or colspans:

1. Copy from browser, paste into Excel.
2. Copy cells from Excel into Notepad (it will be tab-delimited).
3. Copy from Notepad back into Excel.
4. Copy cellls from Excel into Word.
5. Format and decorate as necessary.

Circuitous, I know, but it's worked for me for years. On preview I see adamrice's method may work better, but this is mine, and I stand by it.
posted by ostranenie at 6:48 PM on September 19, 2013

Response by poster: davcoo, you are my absolute hero. I'm speechless with joy. Thanks to all, and I promise I will never do anything this silly again!
posted by orrnyereg at 7:29 PM on September 19, 2013

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